A light has gone out

We live in a time of Corona virus.  There is no cure, no vaccine, and we have all been asked to sacrifice by staying at home, social distancing 6 feet or more and wear face coverings.  Which seems a small price to pay for staying alive.  For more than 50,000 people who have succumbed to the disease and the families and friends of the deceased,  they have paid a far greater price.

Yesterday, I found out that a good friend of mine had passed away from Covid-19.  She lived alone and I am so sorry that I could not be with her.  Just like thousands of other family and friends, so many have passed alone in the hospital or alone at home,  and we have not been able to say goodbye, or tell them that we love them one last time.

The pandemic is no longer a stay at home, stay safe, bake bread, or sew masks for local hospitals. It has suddenly become personal for me, and I am grieving my friend.  The longer this goes on the greater the chance that you, too will feel the loss of someone dear to you.

So please take care of your health, and the health of everyone around you.

And rest gently, my dear one.

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Japanese Ceramics quiz

I hope everyone is getting along with social distancing.  While we are at home, I have devised a short quiz for students.  * I have decided to offer prizes for the quiz.  This is an open book quiz and I have put together a resource to help you identify Japanese ceramics:

Intro to Japanese ceramics

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of ceramics used in Chado, but invitation to explore further on your own.  There are many resources on the internet about Japanese tea ceramics.

So let’s get to the quiz.  Here are photos numbered 1-25. The numbers appear after the photo. How many of these types of Japanese ceramics can you identify?  You can put your answers in the comments, or you can send me an email:  margie at issoantea dot com.  Answers to the quiz will be posted here on the blog.

*Prizes are limited to current students of Issoan (sorry).




























  1. Kuro Oribe
  2. Hidazuki Bizen
  3. Hagi
  4. Kyo-yaki
  5. Irabo
  6. Mishima
  7. Oribe
  8. Mokubei Kutani
  9. Kuro Raku
  10. Bizen
  11. Aka Raku
  12. Chosen Karatsu
  13. White Shino
  14. Mishima
  15. Seiji (Celadon)
  16. Shigaraki
  17. Pink Shino
  18. Iga
  19. Oribe
  20. Kyo-yaki
  21. Bizen
  22. Kuro Oribe
  23. Kyo-yaki
  24. Korai Seiji (Celadon)
  25. Nezumi Shino


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Willows and flowers

I went walking in the suburban wilderness the other day after being inside for the last couple of weeks.  It is exuberant spring everywhere.  Daffodils are rampant.  There are sprouts of  grasses and flowers, new growth on bushes and leaves on trees.

And the willow trees are such a lovely shade of green.  I stopped and admired the leaves and hanging branches of the willow tree.  It brought to mind memories of the large willow tree by the pond at the Portland Japanese Garden now sadly gone.  And there was a willow tree near my workplace when I lived in Bellevue.  A huge, old stately presence with the branches like skirts trailing in the nearby creek.

As I kept walking I was surprised to see a camellia just beginning to bloom.  It  must be a late one because the camellias in my yard are done and the petals and heads have all fallen to the ground.

And the cherry trees are in full bloom across our neighborhood.  Weeping cherries came first, but the regular  single cherries are great fluffy clouds of pale pink.

In the spring, there is a scroll that is often hung in the tokonoma.


Yanagi wa midori hana wa kurenai, “Willows are green flowers are red.”

I first saw this scroll at the very first keiko I attended at Midorikai.  Mori Sensei was teaching that day and I asked her what it meant.  She said that it is nature as it is.  We see the willows in the spring are a lovely shade of green and flowers that are blooming are crimson red.  You don’t see red willows or green flowers.

Like any Zen scroll, there are many layers to this saying. We can understand at a basic physical level of green willow and red flowers, but perhaps there is an understanding that applies to life, that no matter how much we wish it otherwise, willows and flowers are as they are.  Not only nature, but life is not how we want it to be, but how it really is.  When we see life how it really is, when we are clear-eyed, we can begin accept life as it is.  Letting go of fantasy and accepting life as it is, is the beginning of finding the joy of living.


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Issoan Tea School on hiatus until further notice.

We live in a time of Corona Virus.  To protect everyone’s health, Issoan Tea School will be on hiatus until further notice.

Please be good to each other, take care of your health and the health of everyone around you.  Take time to practice self-care. Go for walks. Read. Clean out your closets. Write letters. Drink tea. And don’t forget to wash your hands!

In the meantime, I offer this virtual sweet and bowl of tea to all of you.  Thank you for your patience.


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How to haiken

There is a time in temae, the tea procedure, where the first guest asks the host to haiken the utensils.  Haiken means to look closely with appreciation.  The etiquette for haiken is to first say “osaki ni” to the next guest before placing the utensil in front of you.  First, look at the overall shape of the piece, then you can put your elbows on your knees and carefully pick up the utensil to look even more closely, turn it around and look at all sides of it.  Finally, place it back down and give it a goodbye look and then pass it to the next guest.  

Paying attention 

Many tea rooms in Japan are quite dark, even in the daytime.  Before electricity, the room was illuminated by candles at night.  From across the room, it was often hard to see the details of the utensils.  By asking for haiken, guests have an opportunity to see things close-up.  The host is out of the room during haiken, so guests can look at the utensils without the host hovering over them.  It is a time for guests to pay close attention to specific utensils. 

Looking deeply 

The first look you take of a utensil, look deeply.  What does looking deeply mean?  So often when we practice procedures, they become rote and we do it just for the sake of the form.  But when you look deeply, you have the opportunity to take time.  Looking deeply means you must be present, not thinking of the next thing, about your own upcoming temae or what happened before you got to class. I imagine that this first look is like falling in love at first sight.  It imprints itself on you heart, even though you may not know much about it. 

Looking beyond the surface 

The next part of haiken is putting your elbows on your knees and handling the utensil.  This helps bring your eyes closer to the utensil, rather than the utensil to your eyes and it keeps it closer to the floor in case of accidents. Also, it doesn’t have far to fall.  This look can heighten your appreciation if you look beyond the surface.  This is where you can open it if it has a lid and look inside.  Some utensils are just as spectacular (if not more so) inside.  Sometimes there is a surprise inside.  

Looking with feeling 

When you are looking during haiken, notice how it makes you feel.  What is it that really catches your eye?  What feelings does it evoke?  Sometimes we can admire the craftsmanship.  Sometimes we get the subtle joke that the artist has cleverly incorporated.  It could make you feel expansive, or perhaps more intimate.  Again, looking with feeling is paying attention to your own reactions to what you are looking at. You must be present and aware. 

Reading what the host is saying through the selection of utensils 

There are many aspects of haiken, but another consideration is to try to read what the host is saying with the selection of utensils.  How do they relate to the scroll?  How do they relate to the other utensils?  Do they expand the theme, or do they take it in another direction? Like a movie set, there is not anything thing in the room that was not put there by the host.   

The next time you have an opportunity to haiken the utensils, pay attention, look deeper, look with feeling and try to read what the host is saying. 

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